How the Missouri State Lady Bears rallied from down 14 to beat Northern Iowa
It's difficult to be surprised by some of the things the Lady Bears have been able to accomplish over the last several years, but maybe Thursday night's win over Northern Iowa could be an exception.
Down 14 with 2:49 left in the third, everything seemed to be going the Panthers' way. For the entire night, the Lady Bears appeared unhappy with the officiating and they couldn't get the stops they needed to in order to fight their way back in.
But then, as it has so many times over the last five seasons, it flipped and the Lady Bears' never-die attitude led them back for a crucial victory.
Sydney Wilson's put-back layup with 26 seconds left was the go-ahead bucket in the Lady Bears' 71-67 win over the previously-first-place Panthers at Great Southern Bank Arena.
Missouri State scored the final seven points of the game and held UNI scoreless over the last 3:45. Wilson, who has been a part of so many great Lady Bears memories over her five-year career, scored seven of the team's 23 fourth-quarter points.
"We always gotta keep the fans interested and on their toes," Wilson said with a smile. "It was super fun. I never really doubted us at all."
The win might have been the biggest for the program so far under first-year head coach Beth Cunningham as MSU (11-7, 6-3) remains two games behind Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference race. Another critical home matchup awaits the Lady Bears on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Drake (12-5, 7-2).
Northern Iowa came into the game tied with Illinois State at the top of the league standings and was on a four-game winning streak that included a win over Drake. The Lady Bears have won two in a row after losing two in a row.
"I've felt all along we've had stretches that have been really good and that we can beat anyone in the league," Cunningham said. "At the same time, depending on how we show up, we could lose to anybody. Our league is really good and we have to be ready to play every night. When we're clicking in on all cylinders, I think we give ourselves a chance every night."
The turning point for the Lady Bears came late in the third after UNI took its 14-point lead. After that, UNI didn't score for the remainder of the quarter and the Lady Bears got a 3 from Aniya Thomas before Jade Masogayo got a layup to fall on the fastbreak to create a little momentum.
To start the fourth, Kennedy Taylor got a jumper to fall just 11 seconds in and it was followed by a Taylor Woodhouse 3 to suddenly bring the game within four.
LET'S GO LADY BEARS!🐻 pic.twitter.com/inl0d2BMql
— MSU Lady Bears (@MSULadyBears) January 27, 2023
"We fought a lot of adversity throughout the whole game," Wilson said. "We all stayed together and we all encourage each other to keep shooting."
At the same time, the Lady Bears got the stops they needed on the defensive end.
When the Panthers took a 57-43 lead with 2:29 to go in the third, they were shooting 63.2%. From then on, they were held to 5 of 18 (27.8%) which included missing their final six shots in the last two minutes.
"We just kept talking about how defense and the only way we were going to climb back in it was to get stops and give ourselves a chance on the offensive end," Cunningham said. "We just needed to chip away."
The Lady Bears got their first lead of the second half when Masogayo made a jumper with 5:13 left before a quick 4-0 run from the Panthers.
Lady Bears earned this one.💰
Finished by Wilson! pic.twitter.com/8DGCA6clYv
— MSU Lady Bears (@MSULadyBears) January 27, 2023
Taylor cut into the lead with a layup with 3:20 to go before Paige Rocca missed a 3 and Wilson jetted for the rebound and quickly laid it in for the go-ahead bucket with 1:21 left.
"She just battles," Cunningham said of Wilson. "When you work your tail off and battle, good things happen. She just happened to be in the right place, recognized it and was able to take advantage of an opportunity. That's just a kid who works hard every possession."
Despite going 7 of 18 from the line, the Lady Bears made five of them in the final 1:21 while holding UNI scoreless to secure a four-point win. Indya Green, Thomas and Masogayo each led the team with 14 points with Wilson adding 11 and Rocca scoring eight.
It was the type of win that could go a long way for the Lady Bears heading into the remainder of the season.
"Potential can only get you so far and you have to start putting it together," Cunningham said. "I think we've seen signs throughout the year and the thing I keep talking about is just I feel like our kids have gotten better from one month to the next, one day to the next and one game to the next. I think with that continued growth, things are starting to click.
"We have a lot to build off of and a lot of things that we can still get better at. But I can tell you that it's a whole lot better that we can go in and watch film the next day after you win a game versus learning from watching a tough loss."
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at@WyattWheeler_NL. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri State women's basketball beats Northern Iowa in thriller